With the introduction of worldwide communication, access to information exploded into our daily lives. Moving from paper letters to email then instant messages and texting, society is now accustomed to immediate responses at any time or any place. This immediate interaction has an upside and a downside, though. One upside is our ability to be aware of events as they are happening. This means as a society we are more involved in international and domestic happenings. Whereas news before was always at least a day behind (newspapers) or maybe a few hours old (television); now we see live streaming video – raw and unedited – giving us a first-hand look at different situations. Due to this exposure, I believe we are able to make more informed choices and decisions as a whole.
One major drawback to immediate interaction comes in the form of social sites like Facebook and Twitter. I enjoy Facebook as much as anyone, but it has a voyeuristic quality to it. We add ‘friends’ that may or may not be worthy of that title, then post snippets or pictures divulging potentially intimate moments in our lives. While it is helpful because everyone can see the same posted information without having to email or contact hundreds of people, it is becoming more common to use this type of personal information to attack each other. It is easy to forget how far the internet stretches when it feels like you are only putting information out for your own ‘friends’.
The influx of information and our tendency to share every moment of our waking day with each other has created an unintended side effect. Now that we are privy to everything, including the intimate details of real-time news, photos of every birthday and holiday, political viewpoints, emotional outbursts and even unfortunate hard partying antics, we expect this level of information all the time. When we do not receive knowledge of events or happenings globally or individually, there is an aura of distrust. A nagging question (which I believe is unjustified) comes up. “Why wouldn’t you want us to know?”
A benefit to our exposure to easy information is that new generations have a global awareness never seen before. It is not unusual for younger people to have friends they have only met via their computer or interests not found in their own backyard. The world is smaller, which has many advantages, including a better understanding of other people and cultures. However, it is critical that we, as leaders, stress the importance of selective sharing for ourselves and our team members. The internet is an untamed land; in fact it was designed that way.
When I served as an officer in the US Navy, one litmus test was never to engage in any action that I would be embarrassed to have written about on the front page of the Washington Post newspaper. The same holds true for the internet. Never share or engage in actions that are questionable unless you are ready to answer up to the consequences and judgments of others. Everyone has an opinion; unfortunately, most people are ready to share that opinion whether you want it or not. The bottom line: some things are just better left private.
CEO, The Professional Development Team